Two is…

I don’t know quite how it happened (well, I suppose I do, but time is weird), but here we are, nearly a month into life with a two year old. Her birthday was a casual family day, but it was also fun and adorable. The Engineer’s Two Year Old is proving a pretty fun person to get to know.

So far, Two is up and down and a bit all over the place, especially because it coincides with having a month to pack up all our stuff and move halfway across the world.

Two is also:

  • Pleading eyes and “Watch videos now, please?”
  • Long bedtimes and early early mornings (we’re talking 5am, or even earlier!)
  • Lots and lots of stories, again and again and again.
  • Picnics (or NICNICS!) on the floor in the lounge with all her friends.
  • Copying everything we do, with sometimes hilarious consequences.
  • Counting “1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10”
  • Stripping down for “nudie” time whenever she gets the chance.
  • Possessives: “Elsie’s friends” “Elsie’s Papa” “Elsie’s snot”
  • Feeding the fish one tiny piece of food at a time, so it takes forever.
  • Reading her animal books to me from the back seat. “Ox bellows. Mama make noise!”
  • Running away as fast as she can to show us she is done.
  • Showing us just how much she remembers from a surprisingly long time ago.
  • Snapchat. So much Snapchat. (She calls it “masks”)
  • A quite sudden ability to complete more complicated puzzles.
  • A whole new level of communication. “Spicy! Spicy mouth! Milk helps…” and “Kiss knee, Mama. Ouchie Elsie”
  • Inventing names for things. Flavoured crackers are “messy crackers”.
  • Telling us a story over and over until we figure it out.
  • Meltdowns over stopping her using our phones.

Two is hard. Two is messy. Two is a whole lotta fun.

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Two is two candles on a birthday cake and one birthday girl enthusiastically blowing them out.

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A first birthday letter

The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday was more than two weeks ago now, but we’ve been busy with various things, and I’ve been struggling to process all the feelings, so this letter is happening now. Better late than never, I say.

Dear E,

You are now officially one year old. And what a year it has been. It has been joyful, and hard, and surprising, and amazing, and tiring. We are both learning about each other, about the world. Of course, we haven’t always been right in sync. There are times where our needs have butted heads like I never imagined. But we’ve both come out the other end relatively healthy and happy, so I’m calling it a success.

When you were born, you were big and cuddly, and strong. You took a little time and encouragement, but then came rushing into the world with gusto. And these patterns from your earliest days have continued to appear again and again throughout the year.

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At one month you were smiling and staring and loved nothing more than your parents. We hadn’t yet figured out what you needed to ease into sleep, and the evenings were fairly loud and uncomfortable. But during the night and day you were a curious wee dot who wowed everyone with those strong legs.

At two months you worked out how to roll yourself over so you could see the world from a new angle. You spent most of the time on your tummy (or cuddled into a parent) from then on.

At three months you were growing and growing. You were moving through clothing sizes rapidly, were figuring out new things all the time and were starting to move around a little. We were still struggling with sleep, but the evenings were a lot calmer.

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At four months you figured out forward momentum and could commando crawl to what interested you, which revolutionised your play time. I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, and you showed me that I didn’t really (and probably never truly will).

At five months you worked out hands and knees crawling and how to get to a sitting position. You got your first teeth and tried your first foods. We were in New Zealand for most of the month, and came back with a completely different baby.

At six months it was hard to keep up with the changes. You were babbling, pulling up to standing, and going through your first bout of separation anxiety and we all caught more than one virus. I was tired and overwhelmed and it was a rough month. But we survived.

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At seven months we made some changes to your sleep habits, and we all got a bit more sleep, at least temporarily. You took your first cruising steps, and continued to surprise everyone with your movement.

At eight months you finally gave up the carrier for your naps (with a little bit of encouragement from us. Or quite a lot of encouragement…) You continued to get faster at cruising around, started to let go a little, and got a whole lot more teeth.

At nine months you could stand on your own. You also started to clap and wave, and were losing some of your babyness. It was amazing to watch, but we definitely had mixed emotions about how very fast you were growing.

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At ten months you took your first wee steps. We were so excited and proud, and you seemed to think it was no big deal at all. You slowly grew in confidence and walked further and further.

At eleven months you were walking more than crawling, and were starting to talk. Your words weren’t English, but were adorable. Combined with a lot more pointing, you were able to communicate more and more every day. Your favourite thing was to stare out the window and watch the birds.

And now, at twelve months you are just starting to run (or at least you want to!) You’re a real little kid, and an amazing kid at that. You love to wander around outside, and are very good at letting us know when you want a cuddle. You are very serious about your playing, and when we’re out and about. But for your favourite people you always have a smile (and often a present).

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I share these milestones not because the actual milestones or their timing is important, but to show just how far you have come. But with all that growth and change, you remain the same E underneath. You take a while to warm up to situations, but once you’re confident you go for it. You’re a bold little explorer, but like to have the safety of a parent watching out for you. You’re a scientist, running experiments all the time to figure out the world and your place in it. You’ve got your opinions, and you’re not afraid to show them (loudly if necessary). You are cuddly when you want to be, but are first and foremost an independent wee soul who needs to work everything out for yourself.

This has been the most amazing year of my life so far, and I can’t wait to see how you take these things and build on them in the years to come. I haven’t always found it easy to keep up, but together we made it.

Happy birthday E. I love you.

Mama

Eight months of parenting

1-DSC_0410Every month we take a picture of The Engineer’s Baby lying on her sheepskin alongside her moose.  As the months go by, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her on the mat, and there are more and more outtakes (like the one above).  This month, the eighth, I had to rope in The Engineer if we wanted any hope of a good picture.

Taking the picture was an exercise in baby wrangling, which is appropriate, because this eighth month has involved a lot of baby wrangling.  She is getting more and more mobile and capable.  She crawls quick as a flash when the door to a “forbidden room” is opened.  She stands anywhere and everywhere (although just the one time without pulling up on something first).  She cruises around furniture and can easily transfer between objects. Most of these things she did a little at 7 months, but the change in her speed and coordination is clear.

As well as getting more mobile, she is getting cleverer by the day.  Hiding something away will no longer convince her that it is gone.  She is starting to understand words and gestures.  She makes more sounds (a recent favourite is tssssssss).

And as she moves closer to toddlerhood (eek!), the parenting experience is changing. Gone are the days when play group was Mums drinking coffees while the babies snoozed or lay on floor mats. Gone are the days when I could leave things on tables and not have her find them.  Gone are the days when she could just play with a few plastic things in the kitchen while I cooked.

But with those days leaving, I can see other days arriving.  Days where she starts to talk. Where she can really enjoy a playground.  Days where her amazing little personality starts to shine through even more.  And at least as much as I miss the days that are passing, I am excited about the days that are to come.

This balance between past and future is a pivotal part of parenthood for me.  But the more we get into it, the more I see that the solution (insomuch as a solution is required) is not finding the right balance between past and future.  The solution is finding space in the present moment.  The solution is enjoying the baby wrangling, the serious face she gets as she eats, the back-and-forth grabbing of babies playing “together”.  To be honest, it’s probably even enjoying the middle of the night waking and sleep struggles.  But let’s not get too crazy here – that part sucks!

A day in the life of The Engineer’s Baby

Before I had a baby, I didn’t really know what raising a baby actually looked like.  I saw glimpses with my nephew and my friends’ kids and the blogs that I read.  But I never really “got it”.  I wouldn’t say I even really “get it” now, but since we’ve been back from New Zealand, our days have mostly developed a little routine.  And so I at least somewhat “get” what raising my particular seven month old looks like.  Of course every baby and, maybe more importantly, every age is different, but this is our life as it currently stands.

Note: all times should come with an -ish.  I do nothing to enforce a “schedule” per se, this is just the rhythm that has naturally developed.

6:00am: we wake up.  I say 6am, but honestly, we’ve been awake a couple of times during the night for feeds/settling.  And some mornings 6am is a dream e.g. this morning I think it was more like 4:30am.

6:30am: we eat breakfast with The Engineer before he leaves for work.  On mornings where we were up early, breakfast is accompanied by a BIIIG cup of coffee.  After breakfast, she has a nappy change and gets dressed. I usually sneak in a shower.

7:45am: she has her first nap.  This is usually in a carrier, and we often go for a walk around town to start it off before it gets too hot. If we’re home, I do some laundry or something while she sleeps.

9:00am: she wakes up.  She has some milk and we get ready to go out.  Most mornings we do something out of the house.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are playgroups.  Fridays is yoga class.  Mondays and Wednesdays we might go for a swim or meet a friend for coffee or occasionally play Bridge.  If we have no plans, we just hang out at home.

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11:30am: we get home, and she is ready for another nap.  She usually has more milk, often a new nappy, and we try to have her sleeping on her bed.  She often resists that, but we persist…

12:15pm: The Engineer comes home with takeaways for lunch.  She usually joins us, and tries some rice and maybe a curry if it’s not too spicy! I try to time it so that he gets the nappy change.

1:00pm: The Engineer goes back to work, and we just hang out at home.  She roams around and finds interesting things to play with.  I sometimes do some reading, or follow her around keeping her out of rubbish bins (we are still looking for a gate to keep her in her rubbish-binless room).

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2:15pm: she is ready for another nap.  While she sleeps I might write a blog post (like today) or muddle around on Facebook or read or start cooking dinner.

3:45pm: she wakes up, has some more milk, another nappy change, and then entertains herself while I start on dinner.  Sometimes we go outside and paddle in our little pool, or run some errands in town.  Usually we just hang at home.

4:45pm: she gets a bit sick of entertaining herself, so I get involved.  We sing (her favourite is King of the Road by Roger Miller.  My favourite is Raffi.) or watch out the window, or walk around outside.

5:15pm: The Engineer gets home.  He hangs out with the baby while I finish off dinner.

5:30pm: we all eat dinner together.  She makes a total mess, so when she’s done, it’s shower time.  The Engineer takes her for her shower, and I take a wee breather.

6:00pm: shower is done and it’s time for bed.  She has a story with Dad, a feed with Mum, and then goes into her room for bed.  This used to be a total nightmare, but the last wee while she has really settled into it, and is usually asleep by 6:30pm.

Once she’s asleep, The Engineer tidies the kitchen, I finish off the laundry or clean the bathroom, or whatever needs doing.  Then we have a decaf coffee and dessert while we watch TV.  At the moment it’s Breaking Bad, but we’re nearly finished with that (OMG, it’s SO INTENSE!) We go to bed early, because we know that the baby alarm might choose to go off at 4:30am again tomorrow…

And that’s it.  Our little life.  I like its quietness and predictability, but I have to admit that it is occasionally lonely/boring as well.  It’s not always easy to get out to activities or to travel or whatever.  But at the end of the day, I know that the predictability is exactly what she needs.  So we stick to it and I try to stay in the moment, enjoying what we have now, rather than wishing for the freedom we used to have.  Because when I stay in the moment, what we have now is more amazing than all the travel and activities I can imagine.

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Growing and changing

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Every month we take a picture of The Engineer’s Baby with her moose and her sheepskin. And every month I think about how much she has grown and changed.  This month she has:

  • grown 3 cm
  • gained 400 g
  • seriously increased the speed at which she can stand
  • improved her eating in leaps and bounds
  • added lots of new consonants to her babbling
  • “grown up” in that intangible way

This month she has also challenged more than any month previously.  In my last post, I talked about all the things that have been going on since we came home.  The couple of weeks since have added even more to the mess in the form of terrible sleep, a first cold, and a not-so-fun Valentine’s trip away.

But as I look back on the month, I actually look at it as one of my most positive months of parenthood.  Because here’s the thing: it’s through the challenges that you grow and learn.   I’ve had some moments, for sure, but this month I’ve also learned so much about who I am and the parent I want to be.  I’ve thought about my own childhood.  I’ve thought about our relationship.  I’ve written and made lists and read and thought and meditated.  And at the end of that, I feel so much more confident.

I don’t know everything, but I know that rather than teaching her, I want to provide an environment in which she can learn.  I know that I want to meet all of her needs, but that I don’t necessarily want to meet all of her wants.  I know that I want to set a positive example, and be a person she would want to emulate.  I know that she needs challenges and frustration to grow and change, even though it’s not easy for me to watch her struggle.  I know that in allowing and encouraging her big feelings, I am setting good foundations for her.  I know that as the person she trusts the most, I will bear the brunt of most of those big feelings.  And I know that although that is hard (hard hard hard), that is also love.  Love isn’t just the easy, the warm and fuzzy, the adorable.  Love is the struggle, the acceptance, the working through.

I know, of course, that these will be lessons I will learn over and over as a parent.  I know that her big feelings now have NOTHING on the big feelings of a toddler.  I don’t anticipate this making me a perfect parent (or even close).  But for now, these are the lessons I needed to learn, and I like to think they will stand me in good stead for the craziness that is parenting.

Meet The Engineer’s Baby

It’s pretty obvious given the title, but this blog is about a baby.  A gorgeous and wonderful baby.  I think most people reading know at least a few of the details, but for anyone who doesn’t, here’s a quick introduction to the reason we’re all here.

(Disclaimer: it is pretty much impossible to talk about your baby without getting cheesy.  But turns out this baby is worthy of cheesy – in fact all babies are – so I’m just going to run with it!)

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The Engineer’s Baby was born on 18 July 2014 at 5:05pm, weighing in at a sizeable 4.4 kg (9 lb 12 oz).  At the time of writing she is 16 weeks old (I had to count that one out; we usually go with three and a half months right now) and weighs an even more sizeable 7.9 kg (17 lb 6 oz).

She can currently roll tummy to back and back to tummy, but far prefers to be on her tummy, so does the latter far more often.  Once she’s over, she likes to push up to her hands and her knees.  She’s pretty convinced that she will be able to crawl any day now, but we think it will be at least another month (we hope it will be another month!)

She has the cheekiest wee grin and will usually share it with anyone who smiles at her, but sometimes when she gets a bit tired she’s a little bit shy.  She giggles, mostly when her mum (that would be me…) makes funny noises or blows raspberries on her belly. It’s probably the most amazing sound in the world.

She sleeps fairly well at night generally.  She still wakes a couple of times for a feed, but goes back to sleep quickly and no longer likes to party at 3am (long may that continue, we say!)  During the day it’s a little bit more challenging – she’s curious and seems to think sleep is rather boring.  But popping her in a carrier and walking or bouncing is still a fairly foolproof method of convincing her to nod off.

Her favourite toys include a black and white book that crinkles, a giraffe/zebra toy with plastic rings that rattle together on the feet, and a ball with a rattle inside.  But she’ll bypass all of those if there are some fabrics that she can bunch together and chew and drool on.  She also loves to chew and drool on hands (hers or ours) and stare in the mirror.

At the moment she likes hanging out with pretty much anyone.  When we go to play bridge, or to meetings, she will be happily passed around the group.  But when she gets tired, it’s all about Mum and Dad.  She will sleep on either of us, but Dad seems to get her to sleep for ages (which makes me rather jealous!)

She is just finding her feet, and loves to grab them when she’s on the changing table and to stare at them when she’s sitting on a knee.  She also likes my feet, especially when those funny orange toenails at the end wriggle around.

She is a truly amazing wee thing (or not so wee thing!) and The Engineer and I are pretty damn stoked at the way our genes have combined. We are astounded at how she has grown and changed already, and can’t wait to see what else she has in store.